It was an incredible sight to watch the athletes experience the Phyllis Magerman B'nai Mitzvah. Our athletes who have been to Israel before and been Bar/Bat mitzvahed were able to stand on the bimah covered by a chupah held tall by some Open Men's Basketball athletes. They stood glowing in white with beaming smiles on their faces.
The second group of athletes was ones who had been to Israel or Bar/Bat mitzvahed, but not both. These athletes were able to complete one or the other while they watched one of our Paralympic athletes recite the blessings in sign language .
Those who had never been Bar/Bat mitzvahed before were able to say their Aliyah for the first time with the sun setting behind them and their teammates smiling from the stand.
Juniors Girls’ Lacrosse player, Drew Kesslin reflects, "I am very passionate about public speaking and the B’nai was the perfect opportunity to speak in public, especially in front of all the Jewish athletes. It was crazy. I can't believe everyone here is Jewish. Judaism is such a huge part of my life and that was so cool to speak in front of a stadium of Jewish athletes!"
Open Wrestling athlete Donald McNeil reflects, "This is my first time in Israel and my first time being Bar mitzvahed. It was awesome to be up there. Especially after experiencing Israel, it helped me feel really connected to the stats."
Open Swimming athlete Nicole Piercy reflects, "It honestly felt like there was a burden lifted off my shoulders, this has been something I've wanted to do my whole life. I did not have the resources or the opportunity to do it at home. I am from a very small town where there aren't a lot of Jewish people. Finally I get to have the experience at the Maccabiah Games. I have been surrounded by the most supportive people, they've been cheering me on, helping me practice which was really helpful. Being on stage was surprisingly comfortable. I hope to use this experience to change my traditions in my family and for my future."